Cousin reunion
instead of memorial visit

Visitors make great sacrifices to travel to Düsseldorf.

Guests come to the INVICTUS GAMES DÜSSEDORF 2023 presented by Boeing for many different reasons. But in many cases, it involves a long journey. Sometimes, three generations of a family from Canada fly in, or a memorial event visit is postponed because a cousin from Australia is nearby.


Hennie Planting, 69, from Leeuwarden, Netherlands, had planned to attend the Last Post Association event in Ypres, Belgium. There, every evening at the Menenpoort memorial, the soldiers buried there are commemorated with music. Every day at 8 p.m., the piece “The Last Post” has played since July 1928. But this time, her commemoration needed to be delayed. Instead, it was more important to accompany her cousin Carolyn from Australia to the Invictus Games.

Carolyn Richards is supporting her son Steven, who is a registered competitor in archery, wheelchair basketball and table tennis. She is visible, humble and grateful to be here with all these people. But the small group is in a hurry now because the basketball game is about to start.

Daniel Geißert, 24, from Ingolstadt is a mountain engineer and has been here on the ground with his comrades since half-past eight. The large group, however, has split up into small teams of about eight people to be able to move around in a more relaxed way. It’s better that way.

They only have one day for the big event in Düsseldorf and have just arrived near the Invictus Village. Daniel considers his visit here also as political education. For him, it is honourable that the competitors do not hide, do not conceal anything and do their thing. 


Elissa Dionne, 40, is with her partner Erick Otieno Omondi, 40, and their two children in the Invictus Village. All in all, three generations of her family are in Düsseldorf. Of course, her parents also want to support their son, her brother Eric.

Eric was in the military – as was his wife, who is also here. He competes in indoor rowing, archery and wheelchair rugby. Elissa is delighted that her children, even the youngest ones, make friends here. They experience the concept of respect. The family is on its way to lunch and then to the rowing.

Gwott Pam Ezekiell, 30, supports the Nigerian team and has travelled to Düsseldorf from Abuja in Nigeria. The fact he has made the effort to come to Germany for the Invictus Games is down to the respect he has for the competitors.

The entire event site and all the activities taking place there are of interest to him. He is currently in the process of getting his bearings. Next stop: Invictus Village. But he also plans to watch the wheelchair sports. He hopes that more African teams will be invited to the Invictus Games. 


Erika, 20, is from the German Air Force Non-Commissioned Officer School in Appen. She arrived on Monday and has already watched a wheelchair basketball match. She now wants to see the cycling.

She has great respect for every soldier and is grateful to everyone who is here. It is at the Invictus Games that she senses the spirit of community most. She will have commitments in the days to come. But today she has time to enjoy the day as a visitor.

Lieutenant General André Bodemann, 58, comes from Bonn and is the Commander of the Bundeswehr Homeland Defence Command in Berlin. He has served in operations abroad often enough and has seen how his fellow soldiers put their lives at risk. “The people that protect us must certainly be appreciated,” says Lieutenant General Bodemann. The main reason for his visit includes the conscious appreciation of fellow soldiers who have done their bit for democracy or are no longer with us. “Nobody should be forgotten,” he says.

He meets numerous acquaintances at the event site and experiences touching moments when friends embrace. André Bodemann combines duty, free time and pleasure, for example at the Opening Ceremony last Saturday or the wheelchair basketball match. Tomorrow, he will take part in a command personnel meeting and later attend the ceremony marking the handover of command of the state North Rhine-Westphalia.


Author: Sandra Wriedt